THE EDITOR’S DESK :: New York – A Quicky From the City

by Harvey Gold on October 2, 2011

When in New York, where I lived for 20 years,  I have a few culinary needs to deal with. The first is easily accomplished by going to Murray’s Bagels on 8th Ave., between 22nd and 23rd Streets, and getting whitefish salad and raw onion on a rye bagel. Happily making it in from LaGuardia Wednesday night just under the wire, I learned, however, as I did again today, that rye bagels are considered in the same vein (and basket) as the spinach variety. Not that many are baked, so if you don’t get them early you find, late in the day, three spinach left in the shared basket. Consequently, I had my whitefish on an everything bagel Wednesday, AND about 30 minutes ago as I write this. A little disappointing but I’m OK. Still the creamiest, smokiest, best!

I also like to try someplace new, and regardless of how frequently I travel into New York, there’s ALWAYS a new place to try without ever leaving the neighborhood, in this case, Chelsea.  Well, in just a couple days, I managed to accomplish this mission twice…kind of.

Mae Mae Cafe

Wednesday, while down at our office, we went for lunch at a neighborhood eatery, Cafe Mae Mae, in Soho. Same place we’ve been before, but a newish menu. Small, cute, eclectic, the wait staff all women, wearing lovely, dressy hats. Adorable. I had their lemonade of the day which was infused with some sort of purplish (can’t remember) juice and ginger. A little thick, but very nice.

I was then shocked to spy, listed as an appetizer, Deviled Eggs. I LOVE Deviled Eggs, so I went with them to start. My partner tried one, and I had the other two. They were lovely, smooth, celeryesque and delish. The good news was that at $3.00, with the serving 1.5 eggs, a nice profit for our Mae Mae friends. The other related good news was that they only served three of them, saving me from being overly disgusting, as I will eat Deviled Eggs uncontrollably when permitted.

I then had the grilled cheese of the day, smoked Gouda on panini bread with spinach and roasted red peppers. This was served with some colorful veggie chips and a big, soft, dill pickle spear that was salty and sweet and maybe the tastiest part of the lunch. Without question it was the most vivid tasting part of it. I thought I was just eating lunch, so sadly no pics, but take it from me, Café Mae Mae is always a nice spot to visit for a bite.

Now when asked what I was up for last night, I declared anything but Italian, with the caveat that I’d be fine with pizza. So of course,  there we went, to a new, upscale pizza place, Donatella, in Chelsea at 184 8th Avenue. Aside from being met as we entered by a somewhat spectacular looking hostess (think of a 20-year-old Salma Hayak), it appeared as many hip NY restaurants look, which means I can’t describe it to you.

I checked to see what they had on tap to determine if I was going to write up this dinner, and when I spied one marked Captain Lawrence, I became curious. I asked the young bartender what it was and he didn’t know, other than to say it was light colored, but certainly not a lager, and without asking, drew a taste for me. First thing I caught was a really floral nose. An IPA? Nope, no bitterness whatsoever. Another couple snips and sniffs and before long I thought of it as being more Belgian, sweet, yeasty, and spicy. I liked it and was intrigued so I ordered one with dinner.

I started with a “Frisee Salad w.crispy pork croutons, and parmigiano anchovy vinaigrette.” It came to the table looking like the top of Harpo Marx’s head, only green…a Chia Pet, perhaps. The frisee was different and fine, the pork croutons destructively tasty—like deep fried French lardons—the dressing like a great Caesar cutting to the anchovy chase.

This, of course, brought out the sweetness of the Captain Lawrence, the sweetness bringing out the spice. Yup, this had to be a Belgian, maybe a dubbel? But wait, how light was this?

The main course was a “Polpette pizza. Veal meatballs, Caciocavallo, Pecorino and Vincotto.” So what we have is a cheese in the provolone family, then some pecorino, and as a part of the sauce, a reduction from grapes giving us a sweet balsamic essence. Sweetness, but not cloying, and while the cheese was milky and flowing, there was the an understated but present wonderful pungence. Delicious. The veal meatballs were fine, but while I think they were supposed to be the story of this dish, the combination of sauce and cheese  became the order of the day. The crust was of the brick oven thin variety. Refreshing was the fact that it was soft and not burnt anywhere, which so often is the case in busy restaurants. While this wouldn’t make for a good “to go” pie, on the plate, fresh from the oven, eaten as it should be, it was lovely. I ate too much, but everything presented so light, I easily ate everything that hit the table.

My dinner mate had an appetizer involving pesto and chewy fresh mozzarella on some sort of crust, which I found tasty, yet texturally challenging. As a main course, he had “Eggplant rotolino ‘Elongated pizza roll’ w. roasted eggplant, tomato conserva, stracciatella and parmigiano.” I don’t eat eggplant, but I can show it to you, a lovely looking creation. Interestingly, my friend’s only criticism was that it could have had the eggplant in a greater balance with the cheese. I don’t get it. But he liked it enough to clean his plate.

I came home and started scanning Captain Lawrence’s website to see what it might be that I drank. Turns out (I went back today and asked someone who knew) it was, as I had guessed, their “Liquid Gold,” a Belgian Pale Ale. I thought the ABV was higher than the 6% it boasts, but it had been a long day. They like to talk of a nice bitter end game, but as I wrote above, I didn’t detect it and it carries a very low (15 IBU) bitter profile.

Captain Lawrence is brewed in Pleasantville New York, providing this hamlet with two claims to fame… at least in my book. It is the home of the consistently best MacDonald’s I’ve experienced, just off the Sawmill Parkway exit, and what appears (I hope to try more Captain Lawrence offerings) to be a really fine brewery. Good for Pleasantville…I guess their name is kind of cool, too.

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